Later this year, director Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will reintroduce moviegoers to Middle-Earth, the fictional setting for J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tales.
The high adventure and climactic battles of Tolkien's world were last seen on the big screen in 2003, in The Return of the King. The final scene featured a climactic battle between the men of the West — as well as elves, dwarves and hobbits — against the forces of evil.
Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose body of work is largely filled with imagery of the natural world — cats, opossums crossing the street, sunflowers and black oaks in the sunshine. Her most recent collection is entitled A Thousand Mornings.
From now until November, President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will emphasize their differences. But the two men's lives actually coincide in a striking number of ways. In this installment of NPR's "Parallel Lives" series, a look at Romney's time at Cranbrook, an all-boys prep school in Michigan.
Cranbrook has been coed since the mid-1980s, its overall diversity is quite evident and the dress code is casual. None of that was true when Mitt Romney, class of 1965, was a student there.
Kyle Glusenkamp pilots Gamera, a human-powered helicopter.
Credit Adam Cole / NPR
Team Gamera keeps a stack of spare rotor blades on hand for quick repairs after crashes. Styrofoam ribs, wrapped in plastic, create the blade's airfoil form, while a triangular truss built of carbon fiber tubes provide strength.
Todd Reichert pedals Atlas into the air, as Cameron Robertson (left) and team member Calvin Moes watch from the ground.
A Canadian team built Atlas in this abandoned barn at a glider club near Tottenham, Ontario. It once held livestock; the roof leaks during thunderstorms.
Credit Maggie Starbard / NPR
Henry Enerson prepares for a flight.
Credit Team Gamera
With Enerson in the cockpit, Gamera reaches an altitude of 8 feet. Elizabeth Weiner, the human ruler, stands below.
"I grew up wanting to fly," says Graham Bowen-Davies. "I guess I just settled for being an engineer."
He's standing on an indoor track in southern Maryland, watching a giant helicopter take flight. At the end of each of its four spindly arms — arms he helped design and build — a giant rotor churns the air. In the cockpit sits the engine: a 0.7-horsepower, 135-pound graduate student named Kyle Gluesenkamp.
Gluesenkamp is pedaling like crazy to keep the rotors spinning and the craft aloft.